Captain’s Log-6 October 2015-Scouting the Falls

Starting the walking safari machetes swinging, to clear a way through the undergrowth.

Starting into the walking portion of our little safari, machetes swinging to clear a way through the undergrowth.

There is a beautiful waterfall near here that I spotted from the air and have wanted to go to for a very long time. It is only 6 miles from Nyankunde on the GPS in the plane but that’s a very straight line. On the ground nothing is straight or flat, the road is bad, it peters out to a motorcycle trail and then to a mere foot path through the bush. I had talked to a couple of the robust pilots and doctors about going to scout it out some day and they all said “Just tell me the day and I am there”.

That would have been the good plan. Scouting is usually a hard thing and there is almost always a better way to do things than the first way. But when we were sitting around the table at Joey and Kathleen Martin’s house at dinner on Friday night, they said,” Jon, our sister is leaving for the States on Monday and she would really like to do something fun before she leaves. Could you please take us to the falls tomorrow?” What could I say? It wasn’t the smartest thing, but I went ahead and told Cher we would be gone about 2 or 3 hours. So we left on our little “3 hour tour” around 8:00 the next morning. Joey, Kathleen, Deana, the 2 little girls Dorothy and Hannah, and little baby Levi. Not exactly the intrepid explorer team I had envisioned for a recon hike, but I figured what can go wrong? We can always turn back when they get half tired.

As we drove along the little-used village road and then through high grass that brushed the sides of the 4X4 Toyota, we came to a bridge. It was very rickety and the rotting boards that allowed motorcycles to cross had to be realigned to match the pickup’s wheel base. We had the women and children get out and walk across and then Joey lined up the boards. Our little adventure was shaping up nicely. We stopped at the CME bush clinic in Sezabo village where I had seen a walking trail into the adjoining valley that the falls was at the top of and people came out of the woodwork to see what the mzungus wanted in their village. When we told them we wanted to see the falls, three of them said they would take us there. The nurse who runs the clinic said it was close. Maybe a 20 minute walk. That sounded good from my estimate of distance in relation to terrain that I had previously walked around Nyankunde. But my only personal observations of this route were from the air, and I might mention here that things often look a lot smaller from the air going 150 knots an hour. And the nurse had never actually been to the falls.

We all took a drink and were off on our walk. Everyone was doing well and having fun.   The overcast provided a nice level of shade so we didn’t overheat in the equatorial African sun. After a kilometer or so of walking and greeting folks we came to a hut where a couple of guys sat talking and when we told them of our mission they said “Oh, no Mzungus have been here for many years. Maybe 15 years. We will take you.” This sounded good too, so they grabbed their machetes and we were off. Within 5 minutes of walking they were hacking branches and grass to make a trail for us as the terrain started climbing gently up. There were small openings with banana trees but the vegetation changed to a rain forest riverine thickness quite quickly. As the trail started down toward the river we could hear falling water and for a bit I really thought we could be getting close. But we weren’t to the falls yet. It was just the place in the river where we were supposed to cross to the other side. The rocks were incredibly slippery and crossing while carrying the girls was interesting. They were not too thrilled with the fire bucket brigade fashion by which they were passed across. After I slipped and fell in up to my camera I didn’t mind being the guy in the gap to help others over. We walked on and on, up and down, crossing the stream over and over.   I really admired the Martins who were carrying the kids all the way. We moved slowly because a trail had to be cut and, even so, it was still hard work and humid. And the ladies were getting tired. Each time I asked our guides how far they said, “Not far, just around this corner.” Corners came and went. I could see Martins were getting tired and thought we had come to their half way point. I said this to the men and they said it is “right here”. I told Martins to rest a bit while I went to see what “right here” looked like. The guides and I walked right along the river in a canyon where the bush was still thick and I could hear falling water. Finally we broke out into an opening and could see upstream about 60 meters to a small falls that ran over a rock with about a 30 degree slope. It was beautiful with a small pool at the base of it and rocks and tropical vegetation all around. I turned to go get Martins when one of the men that had gone ahead to find a ‘path’ onward slipped from the top of the falls. I watched him slide and bounce all the way down into the pool before disappearing under the water. The other 4 guys with me assured me that he was fine but we waited way too long before his head came up for a very short breath and then he went down again. His machete bearing hand did surface but that was all and I finally said, “Hey guys, we have to help him”. We rushed across the slippery rocks and as we got ready to jump in he drifted downstream to a shallower spot and came up. He was done in and after helping him to sit up, it took him way too long to recover. I went back to get the Martins and after that rest they had no problem getting to the little falls where we took pix and talked about the best way to get back. All the guys said the best way was onward a bit and then over the very steep cliffs to the top of the ridge where there was an old road that we could walk back on. This is why you scout things before bringing the kids!

Just as our guides rush to help the man who slipped down the falls, he surfaces and floats to shallower water.

Just as our guides rush to help the man who slipped down the falls, he surfaces and floats to shallower water.

Looking at his Machete which he had managed to save, still stunned by his fall and near drowning.

Looking at his Machete which he had managed to save, still stunned by his fall and near drowning.

We endured another torturous hour of climbing up slippery rock cliffs carrying now crying kids before we realized that we were actually not heading back yet but still going to the bigger falls. They said it was the only way out. It was beautiful and it was good to have actually made it all the way to our destination, but knowing how much we had left to do was daunting and I was getting concerned for Kathleen, who had carried the baby all the way. We took a while to rest and look around and drink what water Martins had brought. With so little clean water left we finished it and filled the water bottle with the river water. It would be better than nothing if things got desperate, and at this point we had a feeling that was in the realm of possibility. There was also a bit of cheese and peanuts which Kathleen kindly shared around. But we were so thirsty it felt as if they turned to chalk in our mouths.

Everyone smiling for the picture, even the man who almost drowned.

Everyone smiling for the picture, even the man at the top who almost drowned.

We started back up the steep hill to the top and Kathleen finally gave me the baby to carry, as the trail was too slick for her to climb while carrying Levi. Next we walked through an any covered area that seemed to go on forever. They have an interesting way of not biting you till they get up far enough that they can really make you uncomfortable. I had them biting me on my back and in my pants all the way back to the car but by this point what on any other day might have been quite painful was just another annoyance. We got out much quicker than we had expected and it was all downhill to the vehicle from there.

Proof that we mad it to the big falls.  No name.  I think I will call it Cher falls.  What do you think?  Livingston named Mosi-oa-Tunya Victoria Falls!  And Cher is my queen.

Proof that we made it to the big falls. No name as far as I know.   I think I will call it Cher Falls. (Cher said, “Because she does”).  What do you think? Livingston renamed Mosi-oa-Tunya – “Victoria Falls” and Cher is my queen!

Then the men told me that we were coming to a military camp and we should stay together and be careful. As we approached the soldier on guard suddenly brandished his AK and told the men to stay where they were in a way that made us believe that he could radically change our day in a heartbeat. When I carried on and he raised the gun further and made it clear he had meant me as well. I stopped and we waited for the CO to finally come out. We told him we were the MAF pilots from Nyankunde and he was very happy to let us carry on.

I could not help but sing “10,000 Reasons for my Heart to Sing” as we carried on. Just as we walked up to the Hi-Lux, Dave Jacobsson and Kazi came driving up to check on us. Cher had not heard from us as we had been out of phone and radio contact in the next valley over and we were hours past our estimated return time. It is nice to know you have friends looking out for you. Dave had cold water and fresh rolls sent by his wife, Donna, and we were glad to have the refreshments.

As we drove home, the traumas of the day just seemed to melt away. I had brought along cold Cokes and we stopped a bit up the road to have our “coke and buns”, once again thoroughly enjoying the day. We crossed back over the bridge and then put the boards back the way we had found them. Adventures always seem to be better in the telling than in the living and we had truly had a nice little adventure.

As we drove home, the traumas of the day just seemed to melt away. I had brought along cold Cokes and we stopped a bit up the road to have our “coke and buns”, once again thoroughly enjoying the day. We crossed back over the bridge and then put the boards back the way we had found them. Adventures always seem to be better in the telling than in the living and we had truly had a nice little adventure.

Advertisements
Posted in Adventure, Amazing Africa, Life in Africa | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Captain’s Log- 26 July 2015-Disarming Tail Rotor Accident

Well, if I am going to have a crash, this is the one to have.  My computer crashed a while back and I have had to work at restoring my memory.  It is amazing what you can forget when you store it in places that are not your brain.  It is not like nothing has been happening.  So much has happened.  Here is something I wrote a couple weeks ago.

Preparing for the operation.  Deciding how best to proceed.  Dr, Warren and Dr. Mike and others get things ready.

Preparing for the operation and deciding how best to proceed. Dr. Warren, Dr. Mike and others get things ready.

I cut a man’s hand off today.  Well, at least what was left of it.  It had been cut off by a helicopter tail rotor only days before up at Garamba Park.  One of the park’s rangers, Dieu Donne, would have walked right into the swinging blades if the wind had not blown his hat off, causing him to reach up to catch it.  The blade hit him at least twice, taking all his fingers and most of his hand off with the first blade and hitting his arm, shattering the ulna bone with the next.  A big section of the bone was just missing.  He was taken to the hospital in Dungu to get blood and they sewed up the arm, as it looked too terrible to them to leave open.    Then he was moved to Bunia to the UN hospital, but when they found out he was not a soldier they would not treat him and, a day later, he was moved to our hospital in Nyankunde.  The wound on the arm had now become infected from being closed before being cleaned up  properly.   It was a mess, but now it was going to be fixed.  I asked Dr. Mike if I could watch or assist in any way and he said yes.  I was excited as I had not been in theater since Zimbabwe days when I flew Matableland Flying Doctors Service and I’ve been quite missing it.
As Dr. Warren stuck the needle into the nerve bundle above Dieu Donne’s collar bone to block the pain to the arm, I watched on the ultrasound as it entered into the bundle and came to within a few millimeters of the carotid artery.  I looked over at our patient who looked on like he was watching a TV show at home on the couch and thought, “Man, this should be hurting more than that”.   I asked Dr. Warren….”Does this not hurt that much or is this guy just  really tough?”   The doctor said “No, this guy is a real stud.”  I guess chasing down Sudanese poachers around the bush in the hot African sun for years as they shoot at you and throw grenades makes you pretty hard.  And this guy was said to be their best. Through the whole procedure he was stoic and tough as nails.  Dr Warren had another operation so we moved to the theater and when Dr. Mike started taking off the bandage that covered the wound the smell of infection was obvious.  The hand cut was clean but the arm was not so nice.   There was plenty of skin to make a good flap to cover the opening we would leave from removing the arm about half way between the elbow and the wrist.  It had to be done.  I watched Dr. Mike start getting scrubbed up and he explained how to put on gloves to stay sterile.  He did it with ease  and said, “There are gloves for you.  Put them on like I did. “  I got scrubbed and gloved like he said and then suited up. I even wore scrubs!   Blood has always seemed a bit like hydraulic fluid to me and I am just not squeamish when it comes to anything in the operating room.  That is nice.  And much of orthopedic  surgery is like carpentry or working on the plane for me.  Being an aircraft mechanic requires schooling in woodworking, sheet metal, welding, hydraulics (plumbing), basically repairing things of all types of materials.  We even do sewing in our Dope and Fabric courses to work on mostly older types of planes.  But,though we don’t get a lot of info on the human body, still many principles apply.
We worked for what seemed like a couple of hours. Mike saved as much as he could but cut away the damaged flesh and removed muscle from bone and cleaned everything  back to where the arm had been sliced through with the  tail rotor until finally the bone was ready to cut.  Then he looked up and handed me the wire saw and asked if I would like to do the honors.  I could not pass up the opportunity.  It is like many times in life where I hate to see things like this happen but if it has to happen, I want to be the one to do it. I have felt like that sometimes when an elephant has killed a person…. maybe with good cause, at least in his eyes.  But it can’t pass without consequence or it continues to happen and I have been called to shoot the offending elephant.  If it has to be done, it is a great adventure and I am happy to be the one who carries out the task.
We got everything ready to close and took the tourniquet off and blood sprayed all over Mikes shirt out of an artery that had not sealed well when we cauterized .  He stiffened but  skillfully found the bleeder and I dabbed up blood as the good doctor tied it off.   I held the arm while Mike closed the flap of skin over the cut area and sewed it neatly up.

Finishing up, Missed many of the good pix as it was necessary to stay sterile but you may be happy to have missed them as they  were quite "colorful. It was a nice job if I do say so myself.

Finishing up. Missed many of the good pix as it was necessary to stay sterile but you may be happy to have missed them as they were quite “colorful. It was a nice job if I do say so myself.

Later that night as Cher and I were relaxing, I turned to her and said, “Cher, I cut a man’s arm off today!” It was quite unbelievable.

Yesterday on the front pourch looking at photos Deo Donne is very happy and strong in his body and mind.  IT is great to see.

Yesterday on the front porch looking at photos of the surgery Dieu Donne is very happy and strong in his body and mind. It is great to see.

Posted in Medical | Tagged , , | 18 Comments

Captain’s Log- 15 March 2015-Incongruity In Congo

Football  match in Nyankunde with new Cell tower behind the  pitch.  The site  of the shooting the night before.

The football match in Nyankunde with new cell tower behind the pitch. The site of the shooting the night before.

The noise from the football game just down the hill from our house became so loud and exciting that Cher and I had to leave our little building project and go down to see what was so thrilling.   It was a match between Nyankunde’s CME nursing school and the neighbouring village of Irumu that was 2-1 in favour of our Nyankunde team with only 10 minutes left to play. It was exciting to the end and as we watched we were struck with the incongruities of life here.

Only last night we were jolted to attention at around 9:00 P.M. by the sharp crack of AK rounds going off. It was quick but there were 3 bursts of rounds that sounded like they came from at least 2 places which were a ways apart. The last bit was on automatic and I ran to the back room where Cher was to see if she was alright. The shots were in range to hit the house but as we turned off all the lights and closed the curtains I checked for muzzle flashes or anything that would give away a position and I saw nothing. The MAF radios came to life as we discussed what was going on and what we might do. Hunkering down is often the best plan so we hunkered, on floors in hallways and pantries.

Almost immediately the village came to life in a dramatic way. Drums, school bells and every clanging thing in the area clamoured with amazing effect. The people started to shout and you could see how walls might, after a few days, actually fall from the sheer noise of people shouting. It had been a while since the last shots and I ventured out to see machete and spear welding villagers shouting as they rushed up the hill behind the soccer field were we later enjoyed the joyful match, a snaking line of lights winding up the mountain. It was pretty exciting to see and I was glad they were not after me. We were also quite proud of the reaction of the people in response to the shooting. Not long ago similar things happened here and everyone fled the village, the memory of recent massacres fresh in their minds. But not this time! They were not putting up with it now.

In the end, it turned out to be bandits and not militia which is somewhat better.  I went to check on friends as things calmed a bit but there was shouting for hours and we were told that young men patrolled the hills behind our house all night long and will continue to do so for the next week. The pleasant Saturday afternoon football match and cheering for the home side was as normal as a day in England watching the footy and quite a change from the serious defensive shouting of only a few hours before. Encouraging and very incongruous, I must say.

Our little Cessna 206 parked beside an Africa Tulip Tree.

Our little Cessna 206 parked in it’s spot beside an Africa Tulip Tree.  Spathodea nilotica.  Peaceful and quiet.

Posted in Adventure, Cuture | Tagged , | 7 Comments

Captain’s Log-21 February, 2015-Boga Gunshot Attack and Medivac

I was out in Uganda overnight taking a plane for maintenance and on my way back with Dave Jacobsson yesterday when we got the word to come directly to Nyankunde as soon as we could with the parts for our 206. Our scheduler Laura Harkonen got the word that there had been an attack at Boga about 26 miles away and a young man had been shot in the legs. Our 206 had a voltage regulator problem so we were bringing back spares to repair the issue. Although Larua was sick, she pre-flighted for me as Dave changed out the regulator and test ran the plane. Our ground crew, led by Kazi, got seats out for the stretcher and fueled up.

Loading a stretcher in the Cessna 206 is a tricky thing if you still have the seats in to carry a couple of care givers.

Loading a stretcher in the Cessna 206 is a tricky thing when you still have the seats in to carry a couple of care givers.

Boga is an interesting airstrip on the side of a hill with quite a steep angle. It makes it easy to stop going up and a nice kick in the pants as you take off downhill. But if you are not on your speed and on your glideslope as you land, a go-around can be tricky. It has to be planned well in advance. There was a big crowd to welcome me and the whole incident was better than television for the people in the area. I picked Dr. Samy out of the crowd as he waved a cheery greeting to me. He had given first aid, but although most bleeding was slowed, the cloth that covered hi was soaked with blood and I had to clean a puddle off the floor when I landed in Nyankunde after the short 15 minute flight. The parents came along to take care of their son in hospital and we had lots of help loading. The hospital isn’t equipped to supply food for the patients and it falls on the family to take care of those details.

Lots of volunteers helped carry Patrick to and from the plane.

Lots of volunteers helped carry Patrick to and from the plane.

After I returned from another flight I went up to visit “Patrick” and found him comfortable as could be expected. He had been seen by the doctors and his bleeding stopped. His knee is pretty blown out and it is still to be determined how we can best help him with the resources we have here. There are no big knee replacements like in the states or Europe.   Anyone have a spare and the knowledge to put it in? As I was leaving, Patrick asked if I had any water. He was very thirsty. Cher had brought some food and drinks to another one of our MAF patients earlier and I went over to them and asked if I could use their cup and some of the water. Lilas was more than happy to help and I brought the water over to Patrick. I don’t say this because I am such a nice guy. I am not. But sometimes all you can do is give “a cup of cold water in Jesus name,” and we do need to do what we can. Even if it seems small.

Trying to make Patrick comfortable and pray with him before our flight back to the hospital.

Trying to make Patrick comfortable and pray with him before our flight back to the hospital.

Hey, as an update on Maud Kells, she is doing very well. Although she still has a lot of pain and there is a hole in her back that is slowly healing from the inside out, she always says, “I am getting better every day!” I flew her and Dr. Matthias and Sabine, who have been caring for her daily since the evacuation, from Nebobongo and they stayed with us for the night before departing for Entebbe, where Maud will go on to Ireland. She hopes to return soon to continue her work here in the remote part of Congo. She is an amazing woman.

Lary and Sheryl Strietzel and Cher and me with Maud on a recent stay after she got out of the hospital.

Lary and Sheryl Strietzel and Cher and me with Maud on her recent stay after she got out of the hospital.

Posted in Gunshot wounds, Medivac | Tagged , , | 13 Comments

Captain’s Log-5 January 2015-Maud Kells has been shot!

Medical workers from Mulita and other friends carry Maud out the the airplane on a stretcher.  Everyone wanted to help.

Medical workers from Mulita and other friends carry Maud out the the airplane on a stretcher. Everyone wanted to help.

I have written about our missionary friend, Maud Kells, before. She is a wonderful, caring woman who has given her entire adult life to the people here. She lives way out in the far reaches of the forest with very little supporting connection to the outside. Congo is a harsh place and she has given over 40 years of sacrificial living for the sake of its people.  She was even awarded the Order of the British Empire this year.  Which makes her “Dame Maud”. Although 75 years old, she has more energy than 95% of the young people half her age. Maud is amazing and is a favorite with our MAF team here in East Congo so when we got the news that she had been shot and needed a Life Flight everyone jumped in to make this happen quickly. Dave took all the incoming calls with requests for arrangements, Laura rescheduled the whole day’s flying and took my flight to Entebbe, Donna and Cher were on the radio doing flight following, our ground staff fueled and refueled the plane as plans changed, Lary helped get everything ready, including providing an oxygen cannula, and on it went. All were praying. I got the privilege of doing the flight. As reports came in what was needed changed, destinations changed, need for blood and equipment and so on changed. But we got there and the medical team of 4 did an amazing job of trauma care. It was great to watch and be a part of.

DSCF5335

Maud was about to slide off the front of the stretcher but we got here leveled out and on the plane safely.

Dr. Mike Upio, one of the 3 we had along Checks Maud to make sure she is ready for the 2 hour flight to the hospital in Nyankunde.

Dr. Mike Upio checks Maud to make sure she is ready for the 2 hour flight to the hospital in Nyankunde.

When we arrived at Mulita, Maud’s home, there were hundreds of people around. There were high ranking police and church workers, and army personnel had secured a perimeter around the area and were standing guard with AKs and RPGs. They were all taking this very seriously and doing what they could to show that they cared for Maud. We were shown into the house where we found about 40 people in the living room and 10 people in the bedroom with her. Doctor Mike cleared out about half of the people, but it was still stiflingly hot.   The doctors had brought a portable ultrasound unit and set it up in order to see what the extent of her injuries was. Maud was given blood to replace what she had lost, as well as IV fluids and pain meds.

After about an hour of working in the muggy heat, Maud was ready to be loaded onto the plane and with much ceremony she was carried out. We tied the stretcher down, the church leaders prayed for Maud’s swift recovery and for safety as we flew and we were finally off. We climbed through the broken puffy clouds into the cool and smooth on top and began to get a feeling that things were going to be OK.

Officials and church leaders gather around to pray for Maud and see us off safely.  Dr. Mathius and Sabene Holmer as well as Dr. Jean Claude  say their good byes before boarding.

Officials and church leaders gather around to pray for Maud and see us off safely. Dr. Matthias and Sabine Holmer as well as Dr. Jean Claude and myself say their good byes before boarding.

After the 2 hour flight back to Nyankunde Maud was taken into the ICU, the wound was cleaned out and everything checked. The bullet had gone straight through and out but had grazed a lung.

As I closed up the plane and put it to bed I had a deep sense of satisfaction in my work and was really grateful to have had an opportunity to help my friends in their time of need and to be a part of such a cool team who pull together so beautifully to get the job done.

Posted in Medical flights, Medivac, Mission, Pilot stuff | Tagged , , | 10 Comments

Captain’s Log- 2 January 2015-Congo Christmas Wet=White

Christmas morning with Cher my love and the animals.  Notice the newest member and Cher's new little baby genet.  More on that later.

Christmas morning with Cher, my love, and the animals. Notice the newest member and Cher’s baby;  little genet. More on that later.

Tradition! Like the old ‘Fiddler on the Roof” song we have many ideas of what makes things right. We like things to be a certain way at certain times. But it just can’t be all the time and you find ways to make it work for you.

little genet which we call Chui, which means leopard in Swahili.  Cher is totally smitten with this little baby that she has been bottle feeding for a month.  They are inseparable and Chui follows her everywhere.

A little large spotted genet,, (genetta tigrina), which we call Chui, which means leopard in Swahili. Cher is totally smitten with this little baby that she has been bottle feeding for a month. They are inseparable and Chui follows her everywhere.

Yesterday it poured rain all morning and it struck me that wet is Congo white as far as Christmas goes. It was lovely and even a bit cool so we made a fire to set the mood. The sound of rain on a tin roof is wonderful. Maybe a bit noisier than snow, but nice. A sense of peace prevailed.

Peace is relative here. When we were driving to our Christmas dinner with the guys in Bunia the other day, they pointed out where the thief had been caught and beaten by a mob and then fuel poured on him and lit off. He did not do well. It was not a hundred yards from our MAF office. I was shocked.   So they told me how 2 other thieves had been caught stealing in the market so they pounded nails into their heads. They did not survive either. There is such a frustration level with thieves in this season that most people I talked to were not too upset by this. “Instant justice” How is that for a tradition of the season? I am so glad that God has been more full of grace to me. That is the real point of Christmas isn’t it!

Cher prepares Christmas presents for people.  Love the googly eyes!  Makes me laugh.

As you can see, Cher was really excited about making Christmas presents for people. Love the googly eyes! Makes me laugh.

Gifts were fun. The carved mirror frames with African animals and leaves were a great success. And Cher, the bush pilots wife, did some great gifts as well. She gave me a jump stick with the start of the stories of our life together on it. The first 3 chapters. It is a wonderful thing. She is gifted at writing and I am very happy. It is amazing how creating an appropriate gift can mean so much. Another cool thing about gifts is maybe selfish in a way, but if you find the right gift, every time the receiver looks at it, they are reminded of you. I have a coffee cup that Dudley Rogers gave me years ago in Zimbabwe. It has the Tshabezi Safaris Logo on it, which reminds me of good times. But maybe more important, I pray for Dudley every morning when I drink from it. That is a cool gift! I also have a knife sheath that my friend Roger Clark made for me. I wear it all the time and remember him as often because I look at it. I must remember to give gifts like that. These are not expensive treasures. But I love them for what they do to my mind.

A very Happy New Year to you all.

Posted in Cuture, Holiday, Wildlife | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Captain’s Log- 23 December 2014-It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Congo Christmas

A fire in the fireplace sets the mood.  Bob greets everyone.  Coffee makes it all perfect.

A fire in the fireplace sets the mood. Bob greets everyone. Coffee makes it all perfect.

We have always tried to keep Christmas set apart and special and not get too into the commercializing of it starting before Thanksgiving. We like Thanksgiving as well. We have so much to be thankful for, from the physical blessings we celebrate in November to the amazing spiritual gift we were given at the first Christmas.

In order to make Christmas a special time, apart from the rest of the year, when our kids were younger we decided on December 1st as our family’s traditional official and ceremonious starting point. No matter what we are seeing and hearing out in public, we are not allowed to do, see or hear anything having to do with Christmas until that auspicious day. Then the household is jolted from sleep that morning with our favorite arrangement of “Joy to the World” and the fun begins.

But we are longing for a long good time this year so we started just after Thanksgiving, decorating the house and listening to Christmas music. It has been fun. We don’t have any shops to go to so we are working on gifts that we can make ourselves. That is a lot more work and planning for me but a lot more rewarding in the end.

Our MAF staff boards the plane for a ride around the village.  Very excited and full of anticipation.

Our MAF staff boards the plane for a ride around the village. Very excited and full of anticipation.

We watched the musical version of “Scrooge” with Albert Finney as another tradition. Had the MAF team over for that. It kind of set the mood for our party time with our employees in a very good way. With a bit of our “mortal money”, we have the power to bring joy and change the circumstances in people’s lives and we tried to spread that around this year. First of all, there were many of our guys who had never been in an airplane, in spite of having worked with MAF for many years. We had a day where we took everyone up for a flip around the village and surrounding area in our newest Caravan, CMP. It was great fun for most while others realized that they were not meant to fly.

Lary took the firest load and I took the second.  It is always fun to see people experience breaking ground for the first time and seeing the world from a birds perspective.

Lary took the first load and I took the second. It is always fun to see people experience breaking ground for the first time and “seeing the world like a bird.”  There was a carnival atmosphere afterwords.

 

Most everyone was incredibly happy at getting to see their homes from the air.  Their families knew they would be flying this day and were out to wave.

Most everyone was incredibly happy, like Sezabo, at getting to see their homes from the air. Their families knew they would be flying this day so many were out to wave.

Others fell down and were happy to touch Terra ferma again

Others fell down and were happy to touch Terra firma again. Aselme thought he had all the fun he could stand.

Generally it was a big thumbs up for airplanes and seeing the world from a whole new perspective.

Generally it was a big thumbs up for airplanes and seeing the world from a whole new perspective.

We took our staff in Bunia out for a big dinner with singing and prayer and unlimited chicken, fish and chips and sodas to eat and drink. It is shocking and fun what some people can eat. Especially if they bring a backpack! Some went and bought plastic bags at the corner to take home the “bones”.   Everyone had a lot of fun and it will be a time to remember. It is British tradition to give a “Christmas Box” with food and things for the house on “Boxing Day” the day after Christmas and we enjoy making these boxes here as well.  They are full of rice and beans and sugar and sweets and matches and other good stuff filling a wash tub or strong bucket or some such. We will do that again today for our Nyankunde staff.

Big Christmas dinner with all the chicken and fish one could hope for.  Food is a big part of a Congo Christmas.

Big Christmas dinner with all the chicken and fish one could hope for. Food is a big part of a Congo Christmas.

Belle Heure loads a plate of food to great effect and goes back for seconds and thirds!  A backpack is helpful but he really ate as well.

Belle Heure loads a plate of food to great effect and goes back for seconds and thirds! A backpack was helpful but he really ate as well.

Plastic packets under the table helped clean up anything extra and noting went to waist!

Plastic packets under the table helped clean up anything extra and noting went to waste!

Plans are for singing some carols around the fire outside and a quiet Christmas morning and maybe going to the church for a bit. The service is planned to last over 3 hours of music and preaching but we will not stay for all of that. We have already heard all the practice for the last few weeks, amplified just a bit much. We are having guests over for Christmas dinner. Cher ordered a big ham, which we are looking forward to and we will have sweet potatoes and Christmas cake and maybe even a couple kinds of pies. She is a great cook.

We want to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas with new insights into what we are celebrating and why this is such a wonderful Holiday.

Posted in Cuture, Holiday | Tagged , , | 1 Comment